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August Honeymoon in Provence - Avignon, Lourmarin, Bonnieux, Lex Baux de Provence

This trip is very much a compromise between me and my fiancé. The first four nights in either Cannes or Saint-Tropez for her...and the next six nights in Provence for me. Recommendations on my proposed itinerary below are greatly appreciated.

Avignon, Bonnieux, or Les Baux de Provence:

After relaxing on the beach in either Cannes or Saint-Tropez, we drive to Provence for 6 nights (Saturday through Friday) and stay either:
• Avignon -- La Marinde, or
• Bonnieux -- Bastide de Capelongue, or
• Lex Baux de Provence -- L'Oustau de Baumanière or La Cabro D'Or.

Dinners - La Beaugravière, Serge Chenet, , Auberge La Fenière, Chez Rabanel, L'Oustau de Baumanière

Wineries - Beaucastel, Chene Bleu, Domaine La Barroche,

lunches/things to do:-
1. L'Oustalet (followed by a walk at Dentelles Montmirail)
2. La Bartavelle (along with a visit to the village of Goult and a walk to the falaise in Lioux)
3. Auberge de la Loube (with a visit to the Fort de Buoux)
4. Auberge du Presbytere in Saignon
5. rent a canoe from Collias to go up to Pont du Gard
6. walk through the Luberon valley (Parc Naturel Regional du Luberon)
7. day trip to Valence for visit to Chapoutier, St Peray hike up to the castle ruins, and dinner at Restaurant Pic

8. Markets:
a. Vaison-la-Romaine
b. Sunday market at L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
c. Friday market in Lourmarin

anything I've missed? anything I've included and should cut?

Merci!

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  1. August is just about the worst time of year to be in Provence. In fact, it gets so crowded with tourists and Europeans "au vacances" that most of my friends who live there leave!

    That said, if you're determined, I would make my reservations NOW, if you haven't already, so you can get some at least of what you want to do/eat/stay at.

    #7. That's a lot for one day and plan to drive back. I'd stay overnight in Valence.

    On my must-do list would be Les Baux - lunch at Oustau de Baumaniere on their terrace (TERRIBLY romantic), Sunday picnic at Fontaine de Vaucluse where Petrarch wooed Laura (it's not far from Isle sur la Sorgue), dinner at Bistro du Paradou.

    The Roman ruins at Glanum (near St. Remy) are spectacular, and so is the walk at the Hospice de St. Joseph, where Van gogh lived when he painted some of his best works. You will see where he stood when he painted Starry Nights and Sunflowers.

    1. August is brutal, as June said.
      This thread is the bible for all Provence honeymooners:
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/781261

      4 Replies
        1. re: boshtx

          boshtx, I agree that Avignon is awesome, but the OP didn't include it in his itinerary.

          1. re: boshtx

            Avignon is a mess end of July and August. We've done it, and we loved it (actually we stayed across the river, which was much calmer), but I think staying someplace smaller is the best way to go, if you have to go in August. Could you maybe hold off on the honeymoon a month or two? Because even other parts of France are totally packed (Annecy was another place where we sat in traffic for hours during that time) that time of year.

            1. re: LulusMom

              Totally agree re Avignon.
              I'd go slightly more east, to the lovely village of Cucuron, which manages to be relatively calm even in the hectic months, and maintains its local village life, supported by great butchers and eateries.

        2. The original comment has been removed
          1. All good addresses, but you need 3 weeks, not 6 days, to do all of them !

            "stay either:
            • Avignon -- La Marinde, or
            • Bonnieux -- Bastide de Capelongue, or
            • Lex Baux de Provence -- L'Oustau de Baumanière or La Cabro D'Or."

            I will respectfully disagree with the others. Avignon is a pleasant Provence town. Especially if you don't have a car, Avignon will be the nice Provence town to stay. But if you have a car and can visit the otherwise unreachable perched villages, don't settle for just pleasant. Go for the intoxicating. Hands down, I would stay in Bonnieux, especially the Capelongue (and never leave). But reserve now.

            Cabro d'Or is very romantic. But in my brief reading of what you want to visit, the destinations tend to be toward the northern part of Provence. Staying in the Luberon would make more sense.

            "Dinners - La Beaugravière, Serge Chenet, , Auberge La Fenière, Chez Rabanel, L'Oustau de Baumanière"

            If you stay in Bonnieux, it is logistically difficult to drive to Arles and have a 4-hour long dinner at Rabanel and drive back, even though I am a die-hard Rabanel fan. For your extremely short trip, you don't want to spend most time driving instead of experiencing, right? What's wrong with Capelongue's exellent Michelin-starred cuisine?

            "Wineries - Beaucastel, Chene Bleu, Domaine La Barroche,"

            If you stay in Bonnieux, you can visit Chène Bleu on your way to or back from the Vaison market, and along the way also visit Venasque and Abbaye de Sénanque.
            But right outside Bonnieux, on one of the low roads to Apt are several very good and enchanting vineyards. You may want to play it by ear. If you don't mind the horrific August traffic, then by all means drive to Vaison and back. If the traffic gets to you, stick to the IslS market and all the beautiful villages around Bonnieux (Goult, Lacoste, Ménerbes, Venasque, Lourmarin, Ansouis, Saignon). Visiting two beautiful villages a day, with a good meal in between, will easily fill your 5 days (am computing one day reserved for your Pont du Gard plan. More later…)

            "lunches/things to do:-
            1. L'Oustalet (followed by a walk at Dentelles Montmirail)"

            Which Oustalet? That is a common name. Nearly every village has a restaurant with that name.

            "2. La Bartavelle (along with a visit to the village of Goult and a walk to the falaise in Lioux)"

            My fave resto in the Luberon. But dinner atmosphere is better. And it's a very short ride back to Bonnieux.

            "4. Auberge du Presbytere in Saignon"

            Again, atmosphere-wise I consider a dinner place. Again, short ride back to Bonnieux.

            Wait, that's a lot of lunches and dinners. Having a real restaurant lunch and a real restaurant dinner every day is a lot. One major meal a day is plenty. And do bear in mind that all the good restaurants you go to will take at least 2 hours per meal (2.5 hours for Bartavel, 3-4 for Rabanel). Provence and its restaurants can't be hurried. Do you really want to spend so much time à table during your 6 days?

            "5. rent a canoe from Collias to go up to Pont du Gard"

            Excellent. Best way to approach Pont du Gard. You'll be so shocked by its beauty be sure not to fall off your boat.

            "6. walk through the Luberon valley (Parc Naturel Regional du Luberon)"

            That's a voeux pieux, I'm afraid. You won't have time. All the enchanting villages will afford plenty of walks, with the most beautiful scenery.

            "7. day trip to Valence for visit to Chapoutier, St Peray hike up to the castle ruins, and dinner at Restaurant Pic"

            Long drive there. Long drive back. Why would you leave beautiful Luberon, give up on what you would be able to visit nearby, brave the traffic to see other sites? Do you mainly want to see the motorways of Provence?

            In your 6 days in Provence, say you stay in Bonnieux, you want to spend a day in Arles, a day in Pont du Gard. That leaves 4 days.Do you reallize how much there is to see in the Luberon? Do you really want to spend a day in Vaison and the vineyards there? Another day way north in Valence? Another day hiking? that leaves one day to see the half a dozen listed plus beaux villages near you, never mind the rest. It seems you will be zigzagging everyday on busy roads, always wishing you were somewhere else.

            "8. Markets:
            a. Vaison-la-Romaine
            b. Sunday market at L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
            c. Friday market in Lourmarin"

            a and b are very similar, with many of the same vendors. a is a long drive from Bonnieux (even longer if you stay in the other places further south).
            I go to those markets every year. While I used to be overwhelmed by a and b, I have found them somewhat less authentic in recent years. And traffic-wise they are quite impratiquables in June/September. I can't imagine them in August.
            It it were my honeymoon, I would make great use of the beautiful places near Bonnieux, the vineyards, the markets, the restaurants, and avoid long drives hat flare tempers and ruin romanticism.

            Coustellet has a more authentic market, for those who cook at home. If you are staying in a hotel and mainly want to see a marché provençal for charcuteries, herbs, fabrics, soaps, the Friday morning ones in Bonnieux or Lourmarin are quite nice.

            Cannes/St Tropez are going to be abject in August. Please don't torture yourselves. A honeymoon should not be a world of pain.

            On the coast you may want to stay in one of those beautiful - and quieter - perched villages like Roquebrune, Biot, Haut de Cagnes (great eats), Saint Agnès, where you are near enough the coast and see that azur without being inside the grind.

            In conclusion, you seem to be underestimating the distances covered and the August traffic and, worse, August crowd. You may want to use Viamichelin or Google map to calculate your driving time, and add about 25% to 40% to the time calculations.
            Spending 6 days in Provence with your loved one is a dream come true. Don't turn it into a marathon endurance test.
            :-)

            18 Replies
            1. re: Parigi

              My Lord, l am in awe of your knowledge. Datophone, listen to Parigi, she knows her stuff. OTOH, l do remember a dinner at Pic, it was a true wow. And Sophie is a delight.

              1. re: Parigi

                <Les Baux de Provence -- L'Oustau de Baumanière or La Cabro D'Or."> La Riboto de Taven is also a lovely place to stay in Les Baux. Good food, too.

                1. re: Parigi

                  I am deeply appreciative, Parigi - I did not anticipate the amount of travel required in my plans. I have revised them per your recommendations.

                  Saturday
                  Drive to Bonnieux -- Bastide de Capelongue -- and have dinner at the hotel

                  Sunday
                  1. Market at L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
                  2. picnic at Fontaine de Vaucluse (too far?)
                  3. dinner at Auberge La Fenière

                  Monday
                  1. Drive to Goult and a walk to the falaise in Lioux
                  2. dinner at La Bartavelle

                  Tuesday
                  1. wineries near Apt
                  2. tour Saignon
                  3. dinner at Auberge du Presbytere

                  Wednesday
                  1a. either deal w/ traffic at head to CDP to visit the bigger wineries -- or --
                  1b. tour Lacoste & Menerbes
                  2. other dinner suggestions near the hotel in Bonnieux?

                  Thursday (is this too much??)
                  1. check out/depart early from hotel in Bonnieux and drive to Collias
                  2. rent a canoe from Collias to go up to Pont du Gard
                  3. drive to Arles
                  4. dinner at Chez Rabanel
                  5. stay the night in Arles at L'Hotel Particulier

                  Friday
                  Train/Flight to Paris :(

                  1. re: datopone

                    "Sunday
                    1. Market at L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
                    2. picnic at Fontaine de Vaucluse (too far?)
                    3. dinner at Auberge La Fenière"

                    Fontaine de Vaucluse is not too far. It is just … overrun and sans interêt.

                    You are going west of Bonnieux, then going southeast. Try to visit in clusters and minimize zigzagging.

                    If you are dining in Lourmarin. What may more logistical sense is, for the morning:
                    - not visit Isle sur la Sorgue,
                    - visit the Apt morning market which is great, and get a picnic there,
                    - or have the enchanting lunch at the Ferme-Auberge Le Castelas in Sivergues. -- Big lunch and big dinner. Hmm, problem. If I must choose only one meal, it would be Le Castelas. There's no setting like it. It's land's end in Provence. The lunch is very good. A little goat may jump on your talbe.
                    - visit Ansouis and the Val Joanis vineyard-garden in Perthuis. A.Bourdain has discovered it. Visit it before the entire northern California gets there.
                    - Late afternoon. You think you can pack a dinner? You are very near Lourmarin and the Auberge La Fénière.

                    On the road between Bonnieux and Lourmarin, finding this archeological mystery of a bridge, with a shell-patterned side, would be a great thrill. It is right outside Bonnieux on the road south.
                    http://compagnonnage.info/blog/blogs/...

                    "Monday
                    1. Drive to Goult and a walk to the falaise in Lioux
                    2. dinner at La Bartavelle"

                    Visit of Lacoste and Menerbes can be grouped here.

                    "Tuesday
                    1. wineries near Apt
                    2. tour Saignon
                    3. dinner at Auberge du Presbytere"

                    A village not far way with good eats is Caseneuve. Le Sanglier Paresseux is one of the most exciting restaurants in the Luberon today. I love, love the Auberge du Presbytère, more for an afternoon coffe or a pre-dinner apéritif. Caseneuve is only one village away…

                    "Wednesday
                    1a. either deal w/ traffic at head to CDP to visit the bigger wineries -- or --
                    1b. tour Lacoste & Menerbes
                    2. other dinner suggestions near the hotel in Bonnieux?"

                    If you have visited Ménerbes and Lacoste Monday, and have given up Isle sl Sorghe, you can:
                    - either drive up to Vaison
                    - or visit other beautiful villages in the Luberon.

                    "Thursday (is this too much??
                    )1. check out/depart early from hotel in Bonnieux and drive to Collias
                    2. rent a canoe from Collias to go up to Pont du Gard
                    3. drive to Arles
                    4. dinner at Chez Rabanel
                    5. stay the night in Arles at L'Hotel Particulier"

                    If you stay the night in Arles, this can work.
                    For your canoe picnic, on your drive west on the D900 in the morning, you can get all the picnic food conveniently at the very good delicatessen of Maison Gouin in Coustellet on the way, Try to exercise some self-control and not buy everything. Don't forget to visit the beautiful wine cellar and take a photo.

                    An hotel in Arles which is an institution is the Nord Pinus, which some American visitors call North Penis. A very special honeymoon thing to do would be, in my warped mind, to book the room where Charlotte rampling posed nude on a desk for Helmut Newton…
                    http://www.iwanttobeacoppola.com/stor...

                    In the least, change to your fine clothes and have a pre-dinner drink in the Nord Pinus bar. Arles is not complete without it.

                    Please write back and don't do a "spybarnes" (his thread can be found by search function).

                    1. re: Parigi

                      thank you soo much Parigi!! I will most definitely follow up with a full report...and pictures of the shell bridge! I am very excited for this trip.

                      Saturday
                      Drive to Bonnieux -- Bastide de Capelongue -- and have dinner at the hotel

                      Sunday
                      1. Visit the Apt morning market, and get a small picnic there to go (save for dinner)
                      2. Late lunch at the Ferme-Auberge Le Castelas in Sivergue
                      3. Visit Ansouis and the Val Joanis vineyard-garden in Perthuis

                      Monday
                      1. Visit Lacoste and Menerbes
                      2. Drive to Goult and a walk to the falaise in Lioux
                      3. dinner at La Bartavelle in Goult

                      Tuesday
                      1. wineries near Apt
                      2. tour Saignon
                      3. pre-dinner apertif at Auberge du Presbytere in Saignon
                      4. dinner in Caseneuve at Le Sanglier Paresseux

                      Wednesday
                      1. either drive up to Vaison -- or visit other villages in the Luberon
                      2. dinner at Auberge La Fenière

                      Thursday
                      1. depart early from hotel in Bonnieux and drive to Collias
                      2. pick up food from Maison Gouin in Coustellet for picnic later
                      3. rent a canoe from Collias to go up to Pont du Gard
                      4. drive to Arles
                      5. dinner at Chez Rabanel
                      6. stay the night in Arles at Nord Pinus

                      Merci!

                      1. re: datopone

                        Looks very good.
                        Now is not too early to make reservations.
                        Kurtis's thread, which I recommended up thread, have many excellent backup options.
                        Looking forward to your report.
                        Lastly, congratulations on your honeymoon.

                      2. re: Parigi

                        I'm back after a very relaxing and totally amazing honeymoon. I've so much to write – a lot of food and wine were ingested, and will write a detailed blow by blow trip report, but wanted to quickly get back to everyone with my favorites of the trip, and a few other brief notes and observations. Thanks again for all your help & counsel.

                        1. Note: August was not at all too hot in the Luberon or too congested to enjoy. maybe coming from New York and having been raised in LA I have a different sense of hot/humid and congestion/traffic, but I found the Luberon to be temperately hot, and empty
                        2. Review: Best meal from start to end was at Capelongue, though they were the only restaurant to not have an English menu, which was annoying
                        3. Review: Best single item was a tie between the foie gras at Le Petite Cave, the sunflower truffle at Capelongue, and the rack of lamb at L’Arome
                        4. Observation: Most annoying award goes to the English – we had many encounters with groups of Brits at various restaurants, sites, etc., and found them to be vapidly arrogant and offensively loud
                        5. Review: There is really nothing to do or see in many of the towns we visited for dinner. For instance, we went to Goult 2 hours early for our dinner at La Bartavelle and ended up leaving after 30 minutes. The town was deserted aside from maybe 4-5 small groups of mostly French tourists, and a dozen or so locals. There were maybe 10 shops in the town, of which 5 were open
                        6. Review: The market at L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue was awesome…a highlight of the trip. I liked that it was mobbed…and there were ample stands to support all the people. Parking was easy – people are regularly coming & going from the lots so it’s just a matter of waiting a couple minutes in a lot nearby until someone leaves
                        7. Review: The canoe trip to the Pont du gard was a great way to spend the day
                        8. Review: The hike along the falaise at Lioux was long, but worthwhile, and offered a great way to see the real Luberon
                        9. Observation: Arles – a very cool mini-Paris. We spent only 1 night here, and I wish I had done 2 instead, and cut down the Luberon by 1 night. Really want to go back and explore this city.
                        10. Review: Best meal for the price was hands down Le Petit Cave. The food was fantastic. I easily could’ve eaten there 3 days in a row if we had spent more time in Luberon
                        11. Observation: In America tasting menus are restaurants’ devices to rip off their customers. In France, they’re the norm, and in many cases more reasonably priced than ordering individual items off the menu

                        1. re: datopone

                          Thank you so much for reporting back. Updates like yours are what keep this board going.

                          Glad you were not only unfazed by August in Luberon, you seem to find it downright leisurely. Well, my Hong Kong friends find Saturday night in Paris Latin Quarter nice and quiet too, so I getcha.

                          And you even find Isle sur la Sorgue parking easy ! You're real New Yorker, LOL.

                          "5. Review: There is really nothing to do or see in many of the towns we visited for dinner. For instance, we went to Goult 2 hours early for our dinner at La Bartavelle and ended up leaving after 30 minutes. The town was deserted aside from maybe 4-5 small groups of mostly French tourists, and a dozen or so locals. There were maybe 10 shops in the town, of which 5 were open"

                          Those Luberon villages, like Goult, are, well, villages. They are not village malls. For a village to have moer than 10 villages would smack of a tourist setup.

                          "Capelongue, though they were the only restaurant to not have an English menu, which was annoying...
                          Observation: Most annoying award goes to the English"

                          Hmm, in order not to annoy you, ideally restaurants should print up English menus for no one to read, except, well, you.
                          No wonder Sartre said l'enfer c'est l'autre.

                          Arles is one of my fave towns. Indeed it deserves more than a day-trip. Ideally the Arles-Pont du Gard-Uzès area really needs at least one whole week to explore. You can't do that if you are in the Luberon. Datopone, that will be for your anniversary trip next year. :-)
                          This is another point you make on which other hounds should take heed. Provence covers a very large area. From one area to another, the landscape changes, the feel changes. And whether you pick the Luberon or the Bouches du Rhone, Provence is much more than taking a pic in front of a postcard monument and hurrying back to the car, on to another postcard pose.
                          Only you know what your interests are, and you should orient your research and pick your base accordingly, in order not to regret later.

                            1. re: Parigi

                              Oops, I meant "For a village to have more than 10 shops would smack of a tourist setup."
                              not
                              "For a village to have moer than 10 villages would smack of a tourist setup."

                              1. re: Parigi

                                "Provence is much more than taking a pic in front of a postcard monument and hurrying back to the car, on to another postcard pose." // depends what one is after. most villages were like Goult. I don't believe one needs to see too many of them...it is not as though there is historical or cultural significance attached like there is at say pont du gard. If you go to Saignon (the most charming of all the small villages we visited) and eat at le petit cave, one will have an adequate idea of what a Provincial villages is like, and may eat among the better of the Luberon restaurants.

                                We had a very special lunch at auberge de la loube - a Provincial feast of carrots, squash, tomatoes, cantaloupe with mint (most restaurants had something like this), tzatziki, beets, cous cous, hard boiled eggs, artichoke, hummus, eggplant, and caramelized onions that tasted more like honey than onions - where we sat next to a group (2 couples in their 50s-60s) of Brits (theme of the trip) who riddled off Luberon villages they'd visited juxtaposed to 1-2 word adjectives (e.g., good, bad, like, dislike) as though it were a grocery list. What's the point? I don't see what is to be gained from running to and from these villages regardless of whether one has 1 day or 1 month to spend in the luberon.

                                Don't get me wrong. We loved our time spent in the Luberon. We loved the food, the hike above Lioux, the market, the pool at the hotel relaxing with rose and French cheeses. I personally couldn't have spent any longer there than we did. But that's me.

                                1. re: Parigi

                                  "Hmm, in order not to annoy you, ideally restaurants should print up English menus for no one to read, except, well, you.
                                  No wonder Sartre said l'enfer c'est l'autre." //

                                  Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. I of course do not expect a restaurant located deep in the French countryside to have an English menu. I would have thought, however, that a restaurant located in a hotel would. I speak enough French to pleasantly begin and end a conversation and courteously enter a store, restaurant, ask for directions, etc. I do not, however, have the command of French vocabulary required to digest a French menu such as Capelongue's. I attempted to use the Paris Food Lover's app by Patricia Wells on my iphone, but the amount of ingredients listed for each dish on the menu...well, made using the app annoying. I was annoyed, as was I'm sure the lovely waitress who tried to explain each item. An English menu would have been, well, less annoying.

                                  As for the annoying Brits, they seemed to annoy just about everyone, including the nice young French couple dining next to us at Capelongue who asked to be moved to a table at the other side of the restaurant in search of respite - and in response to which one of the young British diners cried sarcastically, "Daddy, I think we've ruined their date." Because we did not want to be a further annoyance to our lovely waitress, my wife and I did not complain, and instead listened in shock to their lesson in ignoramus.

                                  1. re: datopone

                                    I think that you can find rude in just about any culture on the planet. I don't know that it's fair to all Brits to paint them all with the rude tourist brush. I say that as an American who has cringed my way around Europe at times when confronted with some of my fellow countrymen and women. Wouldn't want to be compared, so I have learned to be careful to avoid generalizations...just sayin.

                                    I am struggling with learning French and have had some surprises when I thought I had translated a menu item properly.. But to me that's part of the fun...I always refuse the English menu. To each his or her own I guess.

                                    1. re: sistereurope

                                      Well said.
                                      And so often, an Englsh menu is oen sure sign that the place is geared toward tourists.

                                      1. re: Parigi

                                        Yes, that's true. I go out of my way to avoid places with English menus unless the place is well researched and reviewed.
                                        I think that I was most troubled by the fact that the OP used the word "annoying" when complaining about the menu being available only in French. I don't think it's appropriate to use the word annoying when reporting that a restaurant in France only offers French menus, even if it is a hotel. French people also go on vacation.

                                        1. re: sistereurope

                                          "I don't think it's appropriate to use the word annoying when reporting that a restaurant in France only offers French menus"

                                          Completely agree. The world is a real world, not Disneyworld.

                                  2. re: Parigi

                                    "For a village to have moer than 10 villages would smack of a tourist setup."

                                    ... and what's special about Goult that is different from Gordes or Bonnieux is just that: what appears to be nothing much is really something...

                          1. re: Parigi

                            Agree with all of Parigi's sound caviats. Crowds, per se, were not our problem on several August visits to Provence, but traffic getting to and parking after we got to many of the enchanted villages was. Once, we found ourselves in the middle of a sportscar rally on a narrow mountain road, and only my husband's nerves of steel prevented some ugly dust-ups, in addition to the additional time it took to cross the pass. So pick places where you think you will be happy, and stay moderately close to them. Even in an air conditioned car, August traffic is not romantic.

                          2. The original comment has been removed